"Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning's End"
So we have the possibility of Prague on the horizon. The family is interested in exchanging but would need a local university to "invite" the father, who will be on sabbatical too, to come here under its umbrella. Thus far, one local economics department has turned him down. He doesn't require any pay--just the invitation so that he can more easily get a long-term visa. In return, they are willing to help me get just such an invitation from a Czech university. Thus, if we can convince administrators to sponsor invitations, then the Prague plan will be a go. If not, our family will turn to Plan C, which may entail us eying Eurail passes and autonomous choices.
While we exchange emails across the ocean, here at home Paco has had a tough week at swimming lessons. Having just been moved up to the next level (The Minnows!), he went to his first lesson Tuesday night and came out feeling woeful and non-talkative. Only after much hand holding and an hour at home did he finally burst into the kind of shuddering sobs where speech is hard to choke out. It seems that his swim teacher (who has been warned before that he needs to drop the macho energy when poolside) gave Paco the cue of "Go" to start a lap...and when Paco took a second to adjust his swim cap (ear infections and all) and goggles, the teacher then hollered, "I. SAID. GO!" For a sensitive kid like our Paco, that was devastating. He soldiered through the class before coming home to sob and sob. Because I was just that kind of kid myself, feeling sick in the gut at any minor correction, I was all over making it better. Put another way: YOU DON'T YELL AT MY KID, BUCKO, OR I WILL SHOVE A SCREAM DOWN YOUR THROAT THAT WILL ECHO 'TIL SUNDAY. Starting next week, he'll swim with a different group and a trusted teacher. Harrumph.
Then last night, Girl spent her pre-bedtime hour sobbing and sobbing because, as she put it "I was mad at you and Dad because I was angry with myself, and I didn't want to be mad at myself, so I decided to be mad at you." My head spinning a bit, I lobbed a few questions and discovered it all comes down to the fact that she doesn't have a best friend, and because she hangs with a group of seven girls, when they all pair off, she is the seventh, left hanging on the line when it's time to choose partners in the classroom. I offered her inadequate words like "that just sucks" and "friendships between girls are always painful, but I can promise you they will change and keep on changing for your whole life" and "you do know that they all adore you, though...", to which she replied, "I know. I know. But I still don't have a best friend, and I have to live through this Right Now before the changes happen." Finally, after I kissed her goodnight, her eyes started welling up again, and she whispered, "You're my best friend, Mom. That's who it is. You're my best friend." Assuring her that I will try to be just the right kind of friend to her, however she needs one throughout her life, I whispered back, "I promise will always go on roller coasters with you. And if you need someone to go roller skating, I can give that a whirl, too, but please promise to take me to the doctor when I break my wrist." In response, she gave me a watery smile and a "But can we have sleepovers?" "Oh, yes, my dear Girl. We can. I can also promise that when you fall asleep first, I'm going to put your hand in a dish of warm water so that you wet your sleeping bag. But, to get me back, you can totally steal my underwear and freeze it in a block of ice." With that, I backed out of the room; for the next ten minutes, there was only the sound of turning pages. Then the light clicked off.
At the same time that we wade through travel possibilities and kid anxieties, Groom's sister has announced that she is pregnant. (Erin and her partner Ben--who own and run an organic farm and CSA--married themselves to each other on the Winter Solstice and then had Groom, who is certified thanks to an ad in the back of Rolling Stone, do the official paperwork a few months later. And now...this terrific news!)
(a wedding photo of Ben, Erin, Groom, off to the right my mother-in-law, and Girl acting as official Signing Desk)
Parallel to Erin and Ben announcing their exciting news, Erin and Groom's parents, my in-laws, are wading through the dark, murky, exhausting process of putting not just one, but as of yesterday, all three of their surviving parents into hospice. First, Groom's 96-year-old grandpa, Bestefar, began getting around-the-clock help and pain relief a couple weeks ago, and yesterday, just as Bestefar was finally being moved out of the apartment they share and taken to a new facility, Bestefar's wife, whom we call Bestemor (and who suffers from dementia but is still quite cognizant of being separated from her husband and of his declining health), fell in the bathroom and was wedged behind the door until EMT's and police could get to her. Both grandparents were transferred to a new hospice facility yesterday; however, they are not assigned to the same room, which is perhaps the most awful and unjust aspect of these lives' endings that anyone can imagine. Nearly simultaneously, Groom's other grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer's and has been in a memory care facility the last few years, was also transferred to hospice.
Ultimately, it's all just eversomuch...
sadness and possibility and pain and anticipation and fatigue and ennervation and, well, life.
In the midst of all this growth and diminishment, the milestones of daily life feel like the happiest of respites: